Unlimited multihulls for the Route du Rhum
"Pen Duick is always open to origin ideas and its principles of adventure and the spirit of freedom," explains Pen Duick's Pierre Bojic. "And we want to respect the logic upon which we base our values. The past two years has seen nothing new on the part of the ORMA [the 60ft multihull class association] - not a new project, not a designer who is working on a new boat, nor a new owner. This stagnation was most apparent in the 2006 Route du Rhum, which has always attracted new boats. So because we are convinced that multihulls remain the major players in offshore racing, we have decided to no longer be mere spectators and to propose a real project, of which the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale 2010 will the first act. "
The second will be Brest Ultimate Challenge the solo non-stop round the world race in unlimited multihulls to be held in 2011, starting and finishing in Brest.
When Michel Etevenon first held the Route du Rhum back in 1978 he injected a spirit of freedom into oceanic racing, as the Royal Western YC had previously with their OSTAR and TwoSTAR events. Back in 1978, the Route du Rhum created a new perspective on staunchly-held prejudices in the sailing community. At the time the Route du Rhum had no restrictions on size and that first race saw the improbable victory of Mike Birch, sailing the trimaran Olympus Photo, at 35ft the smallest multihull in the race, overhauling Michel Malinovsky's giant 70ft monohull Kriter V, approaching the finish line to win by a mere 98 seconds. As a result the legend of the Route du Rhum was born, and the confrontation between monohulls and multihulls has remained ever since on the race course between Saint-Malo and Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe.
And with the present ORMA class racing all but deceased, so Pen Duick are planning for the 2010 Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale to include the giant unlimited G-Class multihulls as well as any competitors wishing to race 60ft trimarans. It should be remembered that back in the 1980s the Route du Rhum was regularly sailed by 70 and 80ft multihulls and with the 20 years of new technology having been created in the interim should make Pen Duick's proposal more feasible. However when Pen Duick refer to G-Class multihulls we hope they are referring to the new generation of maxi-trimarans designed for solo offshore record breaking - such as Francis Joyon's IDEC and Thomas Coville's Sodebo rather than the 125ft long Orange 2 maxi-catamaran. While
Interestingly while in theory the biggest boat will win, singlehanded in multihulls this is far from certain.
In making this move Pen Duick hope to return to the original spirit of the Route du Rhum, with its share of surprises, innovations and the purest of images: one man (or woman), one boat, the ocean and everything else that is freedom.
Since making this announcement Thomas Coville, skipper of the 32m maxi-trimaran Sodeb'o has said he is pleased with the decision to reopen the Route du Rhum to a truly 'open class' of yacht.
The decision Coville says will work in the interest of the public "who want to see above all things new and different".
From a sporting point of view, Coville reiterates what we said above - this openness poses a fundamental question: that of competitiveness. How will a maxi multihull designed for around the world records do against the power of an ORMA 60 trimaran especially designed for racing in the Atlantic?
Patricia Brochard, co-chairwoman of Sodeb'o Group, also welcomed the opening of the Route du Rhum to all classes and the programme proposed by Pen Duick for years to come. "In embarking on a programme of records with the maxi trimaran, we wanted to emphasise the values of freedom, commitment and passion dear to the brand and its founders. In building a 32m boat we of course considered the possibility of participating in races. Competing in challenges are art of the genetic code of Sodebo."